A Husband Must Maintain His Authority

Family 1

In my last post from William Gouge I quoted him on how a husband’s love for his wife is the foundation for all his duties. We are not surprised to find this emphasis in Gouge. Modern evangelical husbands are frequently exhorted to love their wives, which of course is good and right. However, Gouge’s next section might come as a bit of a surprise. If you remember the title of this chapter is, “A Husband’s Affectionate Authority over His Wife.” The affection part we get. The authority over part we have a harder time with. But for Gouge love is expressed through a husband’s authority. A husband cannot properly love his wife if he is not maintaining and exercising authority.

All the branches which grow out of this root of love as they cover the husband’s duties, may be drawn to two heads

  1. A wise maintaining of his authority.
  2. A right managing of the same.

That these two are branches of a husband’s love, is evident by the place in which God has set him, which is a place of authority; for the best good that any can do, are those which are done in his own proper  position, and by virtue of it.  If then a husband relinquishes his authority, he takes away his ability to do that good, and show those fruits of love which he otherwise might. If he abuses his authority, he turns the edge and point of his sword in the wrong direction. Instead of holding it over his wife for her protection, he stabs her body to her destruction, and so show by it more hatred than love.

We all get Gouge’s last two sentences. We frequently hear about how husbands are not to use their authority to abuse their wives. This was a problem in Gouge’s day as well and he rebukes it soundly throughout the book.  Continue reading

A Husband’s Love for His Wife in All Things

husbands

Can love and authority be combined? For many today the answer is no. Authority is about power and control, not love. Love is about giving people the freedom to do what they want and be who they want to be. But in Scripture authority and love are not enemies. William Gouge, in the first chapter of his book where he addresses husbands, does a wonderful job of weaving together love and authority.  In this post I want to look at his description of a husband’s love for his wife. He begins the chapter by explaining that because the husband has authority he is more accountable.

As a wife is to know her duty, so the husband much more his…The higher his position the more knowledge he ought to have in how to walk worthy of it. Neglect of duty in him is more dishonorable to God, because by virtue of his position he is “the image and glory of God” (I Cor. 11:7), and more destructive not only to his wife, but also to the whole family because of that power and authority he has.

A basic principle of Scripture is that authority brings greater responsibility and therefore greater judgment should it be misused. But the assumption here is that there is such a thing as authority. Without authority there cannot be greater responsibility. Gouge then moves to the principle command to husbands, that of love.

The head of the rest [of his duties], love, is plainly set down and alone mentioned in this [Ephesians 5:25] and many other places in Scripture, whereby it is evident that all other duties are included under it…in this place love  is expressed four times beside that it is implied under many other terms and phrases. Whoever therefore takes a wife, must…love her. Many good reasons for this may be given:

  1. Because no duty on the husband’s part can be rightly performed except it be seasoned by love. The apostle exhorts all Christians to do all things in love (I Cor. 16:14, much more ought husbands. Though in position they are above their wives, love may not be forgotten.
  2. Because of all persons on earth a wife is the most proper object of love. Neither friend, nor child, nor parent ought to be so loved as his wife. She is termed, “the wife of thy bosom” (Deut 13:6), to show that she ought to be as his heart in his bosom.
  3. Because his high position and power of authority may soon puff him up, and make him abuse his wife and trample her under his feet, if an entire love of her is not planted in his heart. To keep him from abusing his authority, love is so much pressed upon him.
  4. Because wives through weakness of their sex (for they are the weaker vessels) are much more prone to provoke their husbands. So as if love is not ruling the husband there is likely to be but little peace between husband and wife. Love covers a multitude of imperfections.
  5. Because as Christ by showing first His love stirs up the church to love Him, so a husband by loving his wife should stir up her to love in return.

Here are a few other quotes from this section on a husband loving his wife.

Their position is a position of authority, which without love will soon turn into tyranny. Their responsibility is especially and above all, to seek the good of their wives. Because wives are the most important and greatest responsibility of husbands, so their most vigorous and greatest care must be for them.

This affection of love is a distinct duty in itself, especially belonging to the husband, and also a common condition which must be joined to every other duty of a husband, to season and sweeten them. His look, his speech, his conduct, and all his actions, in which he has to do with his wife, must be seasoned with love. Love must show itself in his commandments, in his reproofs, in his instructions, in his admonitions, in his authority, in his familiarity, when they are alone together, when they are in company before others, in civil affairs, in religious matters, at all times, in all things.

Neither is it sufficient for a husband to not hate his wife for even the lack of love, though it be only the absence of good is a great vice and contrary also to the duty of love.

For how can he who does not love his wife (whom God has given to him as a token of His favor, and as a help meet for him, to be in his bosom and ever in his sight, even to be no longer two, but one flesh), love God whom he has not seen (I John 4:20)? If any many says he loves God and hates his wife, he is a liar.

In short a man must love his wife.  Without love for his wife all deeds will rot. Without love his kisses are hypocrisy. What does Gouge mean by love? A good window into his meaning is the title of this chapter, “A Husband’s Affectionate Authority over His Wife.” I am not sure if the chapter titles are original, but it hits the bulls-eye.  Love is affection for your wife that is like yeast, which works its way through the entire relationship.  Every interaction and deed is flavored with love. Gouge compares it to salt, which makes all things taste good.

But can love coexist with power and authority? You will notice that Gouge frequently refers to the husband’s authority throughout the post.  To our modern ears this will sound strange. Authority and tyranny are virtual synonyms that are opposed by love and freedom. However, in our next post Gouge will not only say love and authority go together, but he will argue that to love his wife a husband must exercise his authority. His love does not result in him stepping back and letting his household go. Rather the fruit of love is the wise exercise of his authority.

Calvin on Children’s Obedience to Wicked Fathers

Here is a quote from a sermon John Calvin preached on Acts 7:51. Note that this is a sermon preached before all the people on a Sunday morning.

If fathers want to constrain their children to do evil, the children must bear in mind that they have on Father in heaven, whom they are to obey because, as Paul says, he is the Father of bodies and souls (I Thess. 5:23). Therefore, children must obey their fathers, but according to God’s will. For from the moment fathers encroach upon God’s honor, the children must not in this instance obey them any more than they would the devil.

Porn is Barren

barren-land

A good reminder from Pastor Douglas Wilson in his book Father Hunger.  Too many men want sex without children. Obviously this applies to porn, but it also applies to purposely barren marriages.

One of the things that should be most obvious to a man about the women involved in pornography is that such images, however appealing a man may find them, are images that can present him with no children. They are barren. They flaunt their breasts, but they will never nurse the children of those who gawk with them. The men who pursue such women are men who want such barrenness; they find it a selling point. Another way of saying this is that they don’t want to be fathers. They want the privileges of sexual release (after a fashion) but without the responsibilities that God’s wisdom necessarily attached to these pleasures.

Lost Boys Need Marriage, a Trade, and Worship

welder

Samuel James, working with research from Erik Hurst, gives a bleak picture of manhood in the 21st century in his article on America’s Lost BoysThe article is worth your time.

Young men, significantly more so than young women, are stuck in life. Research released in May from the Pew Center documented a historic demographic shift: American men aged 18-30 are now statistically more likely to be living with their parents than with a romantic partner. This trend is significant, for one simple reason: Twenty- and thirtysomething men who are living at home, working part-time or not at all, are unlikely to be preparing for marriage. Hurst’s research says that these men are single, unoccupied, and fine with that—because their happiness doesn’t depend on whether they are growing up and living life.

Several thoughts occurred to me as I read the article.

First, there are numerous reasons why we are in the predicament this article describes. But one of the key reasons is sex divorced from marriage and procreation. We need to return to marriage as a public good and something to be desired and children as one of the goals of marriage. Churches and politicians need to teach and model the glory of marriage, not as a idol that will provide you with personal fulfillment, but as a way to create a productive family unit that will benefit the home, the church, and society at large. There are few things as dangerous, exciting, and ultimately productive as starting a family.  Of course, this is hard when Dad has been divorced twice and his children are scattered all over. But here is where the gospel comes in. Christ restores, heals, and strengthens relationships. In world filled with lies and cheap substitutes, the church must lead in helping young people who have lost faith that marriage can be done well and be good to understand and see the good in getting married, having sex with one woman for your whole life, raising kids, and showing up at work every day.

Second, we need to get young men involved in the trades.  We have been taught a four year degree or more is the goal for all men. Thus many men who do not finish college or high school believe they are failures. If success looks like four years in a lecture hall followed by low job prospects and tens of thousands in debt many young men decide to forego college all together. They used have an honorable option: get a good trade skill and serve your fellow man. But now they are viewed as failures by our society. When is the last time a politician pushed the trades to a high school audience? They push college. That is a shame.

 “Hurst says that his research indicates that young men with less than a four-year degree (according to virtually all data, that’s an increasing number) are spending their days unemployed and unmarried, but not un-amused.”

More young men need to be taught to fix cars, weld, build houses, plumb, fix electrical, and drive trucks. They should be given a trade-school education and be taught that this is not a step down from the really important work such as law, engineering, and medicine. It is really important work because it serves your fellow man. Part of this goes back to my first point. If the goal of our vocation is to make money, have a certain reputation, and be self-fulfilled then fixing cars would be down the list of desirable vocations. But if the goal of work is to serve others and provide for a wife and children then trade-school vocations should be just a popular as four year degrees. They often earn more, they earn more quicker, and those who learn trades usually come out of school with less debt.

Finally, the last paragraph has this sentence in it,

“Rather than try to attract these millennials by reshaping faith in the image of entertainment, we as Christians should offer a gospel that saves not only from hell but also from meaninglessness.”

James is talking about our faith in general, but my mind went directly to worship. Do we try to reshape worship in the image of our entertainment driven culture? Is our worship baptized pop-culture? And just as important does church life and the worship promote passivity? Do we call the worshiper to engage their heart, mind, and body or do we allow them to spectate? Does the fellowship in our churches allow members to drift in on Sunday and leave one hour later with little commitment, little push to serve?  All Christians suffer when our worship reflects the world instead of the Lord’s priorities. But men especially suffer in our current worship environment that is driven by emotionalism, theologically shallow, low commitment (just like porn), and often led by men who act like women.  Does our worship feed the adolescent fantasy described by James or does it offer an alternative?

Boys are lost in this world. Truth be told most men are as well. The good news is that the Scriptures, creation order, and our fathers in the past provide a way forward. It will not be easy. The devastation of the sexual revolution and the abdication or abuse of so many biological fathers, church fathers, and political fathers has left a parched landscape with little sign of water. But our job is not to count the obstacles, but to do the job. We must help these boys find their way again.

Esolen on the Death of Male Friendship

Yesterday I wrote on the need for male physical affection. We long for this as men. A friend directed me to this Anthony Esolen essay, which covers a lot of the same ground though with more eloquence. He even uses the same phrase “half-man” that I used. Esolen is more pessimistic than I am about the ability to overcome the tragic loss of friendship among men. I believe the gospel can, with much time and work, resurrect true manly, friendship. But I feel what Esolen’s last paragraph says,

No doubt about this: If you are a modern man, a half-man, many such ideas [about friendship and male love] and loves have already died in you. For as much as you can admire them wistfully, from a half-understanding distance, you can be neither Frodo nor Sam, nor the man who created them. You dare not follow Agassiz, alone, to the Arctic. You will not weep for Jonathan. You once were acquainted with Enkidu, but that was all. Do not even mention John the Apostle.

I look back at my fathers and realize I am a “half-man” because I do not know how to create or participate in true male friendship. One of my regular prayers is that I can do this with my sons and my brothers at church. I commend the essay to you. Here are a few other quotes that struck me.

Friendship and the signs upon which it must subsist are in a bad way. I will focus on the friendships of men, since that is what I know about; many comparable things might be said about the friendships of women. We still have the word “friendship,” and we still have something of the reality, but it is distant, dilute, bloodless. For modern American men, friendship is no longer forged in the heat of battle, or in the dust of the plains as they drive their herds across half a continent, or in the choking air of a coalmine, or even in the cigar smoke of a debating club…

It [loss of male friendship] is but more of the devastation wrought by the sexual revolution. That we fail to see it as such is no surprise: Naturally, when we think of that recrudescence of paganism, we think first of its damage to the family and to relations between men and women. We think of divorce, pornography, unwed motherhood, abortion, and suicidally falling birthrates. But the sexual revolution has also nearly killed male friendship as devoted to anything beyond drinking and watching sports; and the homosexual movement, a logically inevitable result of forty years of heterosexual promiscuity and feminist folly, bids fair to finish it off and nail the coffin shut.

What is more, those who will suffer most from this movement are precisely those whom our society, stupidly considering them little more than pests or dolts, has ignored. I mean boys…

On three great bonds of love do all cultures depend: the love between man and woman in marriage; the love between a mother and her child; and the camaraderie among men, a bond that used to be strong enough to move mountains. The first two have suffered greatly; the third has almost ceased to exist.

The Need for Masculine Physical Affection

Male Affection 1

Sometimes ideas are so closely linked that it is hard to know which came first. One of the problems that has arisen with the normalization of sodomy is the death of intimate male friendship. Which came first? Sodomy and the sexualization of male friendship? Or male friendships being viewed with suspicion? Did the sexualization of all things lead to the death of male friendship or did male friendship die and that led to sodomy? Did fathers stop showing physical love and this lead to sodomy and sexual abuse? Or did the rise of sodomy and sexual abuse lead to the decline of male physical affection?

These questions are not easy to answer. But physical, intimate, male friendship is often viewed today with suspicion especially by conservatives. Deep male friendship is at best weird and at worst a threat. Feminism seeks to destroy male friendship by making sure  women are always around. Often conservative women do the same thing by again making sure a woman, in this case MOM is always around to keep the boys in check. Whatever the reasons, men showing affection physically is weird. Two men with their arms around each other in public is odd to us. Men who kiss each other on the cheeks are odd, unless you are from the Middle East. In an older movie, Mrs. Brown, numerous British soldiers swim naked. How would that be viewed today? The truth is that many men fear physical affection with other men. They fear they will be viewed as latent homosexuals or it will just be awkward. There are two major exceptions to this, war and sports. In war men form deep  bonds and expressions of physical love are frequent. In sports, slapping each other, hugging one another, jumping into each other’s arms, and weeping with one another are expressed without concern for what the world may think.  As women continue to mingle with men in these fields no doubt even the physical affection shown there between men will diminish.  Continue reading